Overcoming Perfectionism and the Imposter Complex — Tanya Geisler

Tanya Geisler
4 min readSep 30, 2020

Overcoming perfectionism can be a tricky nut to crack when perfection is so idolized by our Western culture.

We are constantly bombarded with images of what perfect looks like — even if it is mostly completely unattainable — and we internalize it from a young age.

(And a lot of those images are mired in capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, which puts that mythical vision of perfection even further out of reach for many of us.)

And it’s even harder when the Imposter Complex taps into that deeply flawed drive for perfection and tries to use it as an excuse to keep you alone and isolated, doubting your capacity, and out of action. (You may have heard this referred to Imposter Syndrome; here’s why Imposter Complex is the more correct term to use.)

Perfectionism and the Imposter Complex

When you’re mired in perfectionism, you constantly feel you’re not ready to do the next big thing on your list. You might be invited to do it, have people clamoring for it, but all along you suspect that you’re a fraud.

And so, to prove your “worth,” you dig in with over-preparing, refining, polishing, perfecting. You try to learn EVERYTHING (and I mean EVERYTHING) about the subject matter lest anyone find you out. It’s never enough. You think about canceling (a LOT). You become anxious and exhausted and it’s all too much.

If you’re a coach, service provider, or entrepreneur, this might show up as not wanting to launch your next offer until it’s “just right,” avoiding speaking engagements because you’re “not ready,” or living in a constant cycle of research and learning instead of just doing the thing.

I’m here to help you overcome perfectionism — because in my experience, it only ever gets in the way of us doing what needs to be done.

Perfectionism is just one more way that the Imposter Complex wins.

Perfectionism is inextricably linked to a patriarchal vision that cannot be met and causes real damage.

Perfectionism is also inextricably linked to white supremacy culture.

Now… don’t get ME wrong: It’s true that your perfectionist tendencies have served and continue to serve you well. They come from an excellent place.

  • You value diligence and hard work.
  • Refinement is important to you.
  • Your values of excellence and mastery are STRONG.

How can any of this be a problem?

Well… you know it, don’t you?

The cost of not overcoming perfectionism

The cost of perfectionism is great. It erodes time, your energy, and, above all, your confidence.

You often feel like “if it’s not perfect, it’s pointless.” But “perfect” is subjective, exhausting, and often a complete and utter myth. And when you cannot attain perfection, you feel like you are the Imposter in the room. Which is a double-bind.

You see… you engage in perfectionism to AVOID feeling the sting of the Imposter Complex. And YET, in engaging in that behaviour, you end up feeling exactly the way you didn’t want to feel.

Because here’s the truth:

Perfectionism is actually the lowest possible standard because it simply doesn’t exist.
Perfectionism is a gold star from some external generalized other.
Thinking about being perfect makes us stay quiet.

And none of this is in service to us or to the greater good.

Overcoming perfectionism

So how do we overcome perfectionism while still recognizing and serving the underlying values of excellence and mastery it often represents?

To me, the distinction is when perfectionism becomes a problem, when it is preventing you from achieving some element of your vision.

And I believe there has to be a middle ground.

For me, the word I use is impeccability. ( You can read the origin story of how I landed on that term here.)

For me, impeccability means presence and integrity over perfection.
Impeccability means congruence. A syncing of our insides with our outsides.
Impeccability means an elevation of standards.
Impeccability means expecting more of ourselves.
Impeccability means having more to give because there’s more in the tank.
Impeccability offers grace when there ISN’T more in the tank.

Perfection is punition.

And, ultimately, you are ready enough — exactly as you are. To do and say the things you need to do and say. Because now more than ever, we need you (and me) to say and do the things we need to say and do. There are continents burning and guns in the sky.

Every day, I ask myself how I can be more impeccable in my word, my intention, and my impact. Every day I ask myself what I need to tap into to rise up to a higher standard. And every day the answers look and feel different.

Will I do ANY of it perfectly? No. But can I intend to do it with presence and integrity? Most assuredly.

That’s what I want.

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Originally published at http://tanyageisler.com on September 30, 2020.

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Tanya Geisler

Step into your Starring Role: Leadership Coach, TEDx Speaker on #ImpostorComplex. Book’s coming…soooooon. bit.ly/ImpostorComplex101